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Review: A Deadly Legend (2020)

What would a horror movie be without a “Crazy Ralph” type character warning everyone they’re messing with something best left alone? A Deadly Legend knows that and right away gives us a wonderfully dishevelled looking Judd Hirsch (Taxi, Independence Day) warning developers and the town council that they will “dig up what has been buried for centuries”. Of course, nobody pays him any attention.

It’s a great scene and sets the tone for what’s to come quite nicely. Real estate developer Joan Huntar (Kristen Anne Ferraro, The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot) has plans for an old, abandoned summer camp. And the fact that the land has a sinister history isn’t going to stop her.

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Meanwhile, Mike (Eric Wolf, who also wrote the script) manages to dig up some sacred artifacts. Including a knife which he cuts himself on. Sure enough, we’re soon dealing with ghosts, deadly accidents and not so accidental deaths.

Director Pamela Moriarty and scriptwriter Wolf have put together a wildly implausible but genuinely amusing film. A Deadly Legend works in ghosts, curses, witches, druids, zombies and even Stonehenge. It’s the kind of plot that should have me rolling my eyes. Like I did at the Norse tree demons on the West Coast plot of Wood Witch: The Awakening.

The difference is A Deadly Legend never sits still long enough to let you realize how preposterous the plot is. It goes from incident to incident with enough confidence and energy to keep the viewer following along. This may be Moriarty’s first film as a director, but she obviously learned a lot from the long list of films she was an assistant director on.

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She’s helped by a game cast who takes things seriously enough to resist the urge to play the material for laughs. On the other hand, they also know this isn’t Shakespeare and don’t play it totally straight either. Besides Hirsch, there are two other familiar names in the cast. Lori Petty (Tank Girl, Orange Is the New Black) is Mike’s certifiable girlfriend Wanda. And Corbin Bernsen (The Russian Bride, Hunting Evil) as Matthias, a New Age store owner whose motivation may not be crystal clear. Both are small roles, but still more than the usual “name on the poster” cameo.

I did find the constant use of fades to black between scenes annoying. I’ve seen this in a few films recently, most notably Verotika, and it needs to stop. Here, it’s used frequently when we’re expecting some gore effects. I think the lack of heavy gore was intentional, as A Deadly Legend looks like it could have afforded the effects if they wanted them. But there are less annoying ways to skirt the issue.

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There’s also an epilogue that’s cliché and annoying. Worse, it dilutes the effect of the final act. They should have skipped it and just gone to the post credit sequence instead.

Overall, though, I had a lot of fun watching A Deadly Legend, it’s a B movie done right. Gravitas Ventures will release it On Demand July 24th, but it seems to already be available on Amazon Prime. You can check the film’s Facebook page for more info.

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